Katsu Kura (Kyoto) — the best katsu ever!

April 8, 2013 in Best Of, Food, Japan, Reviews, Travel by pacejmiller

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Those crazy Japanese and their fake food…

I am not a bragging man, but let it be known that I have had my fair share of tonkatsu, essentially a Japanese pork cutlet deep fried in bread crumbs. When people tell me of a good tonkatsu joint, anywhere in the world, I go and eat. It’s that simple.

Last month, the missus and I went back to Kyoto, the place where we first met as wide-eyed exchange students more than 10 years ago, for a brief anniversary holiday. The entire trip, I am unashamed to proclaim, was built around restaurants we wanted to try and mostly, re-try. Towards the top of that list was Katsu Kura (かつくら), the place where we first fell head over heels in love…with katsu.

Katsu Kura is a Japanese franchise that has at least three stores I know of in Kyoto (there are actually five). The most convenient one for tourists is located on level 11 of The Cube, a mall stacked on top of Kyoto Station, and that is the one we went to.

Given its unwavering popularity, expect at least a brief wait on most nights. The restaurant at The Cube is relatively small but crammed with a lot of tables.

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Inside Katsukura at The Cube

Their menu is relatively simple. They have an assortment of different katsu, priced according to the size, type and quality of the pork. From what I understand, the pork loin (ロース, or rosu) has more fat and is thus more tender, while the pork fillet (ヒレ, or hire) is a little tougher but healthier. Of course, I went for the loin. The missus’s favourite is not their pork, but their chicken katsu, which I admit is the best I’ve had anywhere. For those who don’t eat land animals, there are also some seafood options, such as prawns and crab croquettes.

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Grind your own sesame seeds

When you order katsu, you get a bowl of fragrant sesame seeds, which you grind yourself while you wait for the chefs to prepare the meal. Regular visitors of katsu restaurants are probably familiar with this tradition now, but 10 years ago it was a bit of a novelty. As you can see above, they provide an English explanation of how what sauces there are to mix with the ground sesame.

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Sauces!

Part of what makes Katsu Kura so unbeatable is its sauces, which I believe are better than most.

Each table comes with a tray of different sauces. One of them is yuzu dressing for the unlimited shredded cabbage, which I can have truckloads of because it tastes so good. The other two sauces can be mixed with the sesame — the larger one is the original, and the best, while the smaller one is spicy for those who like a bit of a kick. The tiny white one is hot yellow mustard, which is a must-add for me.

Oh, and the rice and miso soup (not pictured) are unlimited too, so keep eating. We did.

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Say hello to chicken katsu

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Pork loin

The chicken katsu was as good as I remembered it. So was the pork loin. The magic of Katsu Kura is that the food does not feel very oily, even though it is deep fried. You won’t get that disgusting, dripping oil look with their stuff, so you won’t get sick of it. The outside is so incredibly crispy, while the inside is so ridiculously soft and juicy. The cabbage and the rice help balance the meats, and the sauces perfect the meal. It’s amazing, I tell ya.

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We ordered two types of prawns, a normal and a jumbo.

In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have ordered the prawns as well, as good as they were. It was just a very huge meal, and the extras just killed off any realistic chance of enjoying some dessert. For those who didn’t get enough, you can always try a takeaway tonkatsu sandwich. They looked awesome but there was no way we could fit any more in. Maybe next time.

Price-wise, we’re talking around about 1,400 yen-1,700 yen or so for a set, and if you get extras like we did, you’re probably looking at about 2,000 yen a head. That’s a relatively cheap, but extraordinarily quality meal in Japan.

10/10

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Until next time…

Details:

Katsu Kura (かつくら)

Website (mainly Japanese): http://www.fukunaga-tf.com/katsukura/

Menu (with English and prices): http://www.fukunaga-tf.com/katsukura/menu.html

Locations (Japanese only): http://www.fukunaga-tf.com/katsukura/shop.html

Kyoto station store: Level 11 of The Cube (connected to the Isetan department store), open: 11am-10pm, phone: 075-365-8666

Main store: Kawaramachi Sanjo, open: 11am-9:30pm (10pm Saturdays), phone: 075-212-3581

Teramachi store: Teramachi Shijo, open: 11am-10pm, phone: 075-221-5261